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Summary of Capitalism: a Love Story

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The implementation of capitalism throughout history has created a heritage of greed among the financially elite, manifested a tradition of inequality among social classes, and caused financial instability among the middle class. Capitalism allows for the formation of monopolies and the exploitation of the middle class, which leads to social division because equality of opportunity is not achieved in society. In Capitalism: A Love Story, director, and writer Michael Moore use logos, pathos, and ethos to impart the idea that capitalism makes social equality and financial stability extremely difficult to achieve for middle-class Americans who are being held captive under the oppressive system.

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Capitalism: A Love Story analyzes the consequences of monopsony power and corporate greed on everyday Americans. The film presents the viewer with various situations people face in the United States, from Flint, Michigan, to a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. In each scenario, people face different struggles due to capitalism. The film also explores capitalism in the United States throughout different time periods and how capitalism has shaped the history of the United States. While the director is seen throughout the film, his message is told mostly through the stories of people from around the United States, from teenagers in private juvenile detention centers involved in the “kids for cash” scandal to pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

Throughout the documentary, director Michael Moore uses logos to appeal to the audience’s reason and logic. Moore uses statistics regarding profits of large companies and layoffs from the same companies during President Ronald Reagan’s time in office. He uses inductive reasoning through charts, graphs, and other forms of data to convey the idea that capitalism has negatively affected the United States in a variety of ways. He also uses deductive reasoning by claiming that capitalism has led to a decline in society and by supporting this claim with evidence such as the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. The use of logos significantly affects how the viewer perceives capitalism. The documentary includes an array of data that supports Moore’s claims about the devastating effects of capitalism on society. The viewer of the documentary is inclined to believe Moore’s argument because of his comprehensive use of statistics and reasoning in his argument. Moore’s use of logos makes his argument more plausible to the viewer through the use of graphs and statistics.

Moore’s use of pathos in the film allows the viewer to truly connect with his message through the use of emotive language and plays a major role in persuading the viewer that capitalism has had devastating effects on middle-class Americans and is therefore not suitable for the United States. In the film, the viewer is introduced to Irma Johnson and her family. Irma’s husband, Daniel Johnson, passed away because he had cancer, and Amegy Bank of Texas had taken out a life insurance policy on him. Mrs. Johnson was unaware of this until the Amegy Bank of Texas accidentally stated in a letter to her that they would be receiving a $1.5 million payout because of his death (Moore Capitalism: A Love Story). The viewer feels sympathy for Mrs. Johnson after learning of how the company exploited her husband’s death. Moore, having established an emotional connection with the viewer, then ponders how this type of practice is legal and explains that this type of exploitation is a direct result of capitalism. The viewer is presented with a similar scenario involving LaDonna Smith, a young mother and cake decorator at Wal-Mart. LaDonna was in a coma for 3 months well after she had quit her job at Wal-Mart, and ultimately died. Like the Amegy Bank of Texas and the Johnson family, Wal-Mart profited from her death (Moore Capitalism: A Love Story). The viewer is introduced to the family of LaDonna Smith, including her husband, Paul Smith, and her children. An interview is conducted with LaDonna’s family, and during the interview, LaDonna’s children express their anger and frustration that Wal-Mart profited from their mother’s death. This particular scene expresses pathos because the viewer feels very sympathetic for the family of LaDonna. The relatability of the story is very effective in convincing the viewer that capitalism is to blame for wrongdoings by large corporations. Moore’s use of pathos was evident in the emotive language he used in the film, resulting in the viewer establishing a deeper connection with the message of the film.

Ethos was present in Capitalism: A Love Story, but not to as great of an extent as logos and pathos. Moore used ethos throughout the film in that he did not make himself out to be an extremist in his views of capitalism, but presented himself as someone truly interested in how capitalism, despite its many failures throughout history, has the longevity it does in American society. Moore establishes himself as an average American, which makes him seem more relatable and trustworthy to the viewer. However, Moore does have some knowledge on capitalism and American society from his previous documentaries, such as Roger & Me, which examines the effects of laying off approximately 30,000 General Motors employees in Flint, Michigan over a span of 14 years. Even though Moore does not portray himself as an expert on capitalism and its failures, his message is clearly communicated to the viewer. This is done through the use of statistics, an extensive amount of interviews, and reasoning throughout the film. Moore, while having the opinion that capitalism has been detrimental to American society, his views are substantiated in the documentary with reasoning, evidence, and examples. Moore uses ethos to establish himself as a credible speaker, which causes the viewer to trust him.

In the film Capitalism: A Love Story, director, and writer Michael Moore effectively convey the idea that capitalism is detrimental to society and results in social equality and financial stability being virtually impossible to achieve for middle-class Americans through the use of logos, pathos, and ethos. The statistics and reasoning coalesce with the sympathy the viewer feels after learning of the exploitation of everyday Americans by large corporations and the credibility of Moore throughout the documentary to effectively convince the viewer that capitalism must be replaced to free those who are being held captive under the oppressive system of capitalism.

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